One thing this whole FISA business has taught us is that most of our friends are very likely not in the Congress, they're in the groups doing tireless work year after year to help protect our liberties. The ACLU is one such friend.
Today, in a blatant assault upon civil liberties and the right to privacy, the Senate passed an unconstitutional domestic spying bill that violates the Fourth Amendment and eliminates any meaningful role for judicial oversight of government surveillance. The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 was approved by a vote of 69 to 28 and is expected to be signed into law by President Bush shortly. This bill essentially legalizes the president’s unlawful warrantless wiretapping program revealed in December 2005 by the New York Times.
“Once again, Congress blinked and succumbed to the president’s fear-mongering. With today’s vote, the government has been given a green light to expand its power to spy on Americans and run roughshod over the Constitution,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “This legislation will give the government unfettered and unchecked access to innocent Americans’ international communications without a warrant. This is not only unconstitutional, but absolutely un-American.” [...]
In advance of the president’s signature, the ACLU announced its plan to challenge the new law in court.
“This fight is not over. We intend to challenge this bill as soon as President Bush signs it into law,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “The bill allows the warrantless and dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international telephone and email communications. It plainly violates the Fourth Amendment.”
Another friend, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, will sign on to the lawsuit. Raw Story has more.
There are a lot of nodes of power in the political arena, and elected officials are just one of those nodes. The ACLU is so very important in this fight and so many others. You can consider to give them a donation at this link. Rather than throw money down a pit of campaign ads, it may be more beneficial to support the existing structures that do great work in holding government accountable.
UPDATE: In case you're unaware what a group like the ACLU is up against, let me bring you this:
When U.S. law groups announced in April that they were hiring the nation's top criminal defense lawyers to defend alleged al Qaeda terrorists at the war court here, one executive called the lawyers "The A Team.''
Now, they're the No-Pay Team.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has pledged to cover costs of civilian lawyers defending alleged arch-terrorists, is in a struggle with the U.S. Treasury Department over a permit to pay $250-an-hour fees and other expenses to attorneys who have been shuttling to this remote U.S. Navy base from as far as Boise, Idaho.
The Treasury division, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, is the same unit that polices American citizens' travel to Cuba. Its authority to license defense costs at the war courts here, called military commissions, comes from anti-terror legislation.
Tuesday, ACLU director Anthony Romero accused the Bush administration of foot-dragging, noting civilian defense lawyers were slow to receive security clearances to meet accused terrorists held for years without access to attorneys.
Because they, like so many nonprofits, aren't blessed with unlimited funding, they have to, in this case, rely on the very group they're fighting in court for their survival. The lawyers working at Gitmo and in the courts to stop unconstitutional power grabs don't deserve this kind of treatment. They need our help.